Digital transformation can mean different things to different people. To me, it’s about building applications across platforms that align with the needs of the business. The customer’s desire for quick, reliable interactions — like that provided by cloud-native innovators such as Uber, Netflix and Amazon — is the engine behind many such initiatives. Done well, digital transformation initiatives enable organizations to speed up business ideas, reduce response times and find creative ways to solve problems for competitive differentiation.
To stay in the game, you have to completely shift your approach to technology — and that’s where DevOps comes in. At its heart, DevOps is a methodology that enables fast, frequent delivery of value to end users. This often happens through cloud-native technologies and a realignment of tools, teams and culture.
To appreciate the benefits of DevOps, remember that traditional IT organizations work with big, bulky applications that can be fragmented among teams. This can lead to handoffs, long lead time and a lack of ownership over the final product. Testing integration may be less of a priority, which creates challenges, because by the time code gets into production it’s hard to pinpoint the source of any problem.
Here’s why I see DevOps as a much better foundation for digital transformation.
1. DevOps Breaks Down Silos to Unite People, Processes and Technology
For digital transformation to take off, it must be widely adopted, but old business practices often get in the way. DevOps fuels digital transformation by breaking down some of those silos. By doing so, development and operations teams can learn what is and isn’t working across the entire organization. This allows for faster improvements and creates a more collaborative, communicative culture.
This is important because IT teams are often at the center of digital transformation initiatives. They design, build and support the architecture that will enable a companywide transformation. As a result, it’s always beneficial for development and operations teams to take on a DevOps mindset. This will help them troubleshoot more easily, collaborate and embrace creativity, which ultimately increases business velocity.
DevOps also reduces internal waste of both people and tools by focusing on what truly brings value to an organization and its customers. This helps the organization control technical debt and limit lower priority cycles that may not contribute to desired outcomes.
2. DevOps Prioritizes Automation Wherever Possible
To move faster than the competition, companies must innovate more effectively. That requires automated workflows to reduce redundant and manual tasks. This can be accomplished by automating the provisioning of infrastructure, but also by automating the pipeline for continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) directly from the repository, then automating testing and deployment.
A caveat: Automation by itself isn’t a magic bullet; it must be implemented thoughtfully, and be rooted in a company’s processes and culture. However, without automation of CI/CD and infrastructure, digital transformation is more difficult. In other words, there is risk in doing this right, but significantly more risk in doing nothing.
3. DevOps Enables Fast, Safe Change Through Integrated Pipelines
Most organizations undergo the mammoth task of digital transformation to enable the business to move faster and do more with less. DevOps and digital transformation inevitably should translate to increased agility. They often embrace the cloud and seek to modernize architectures and applications through strategies such as containerization and microservices.
These concepts require the capability to make changes consistently, reliably and safely. A key way to bring in agility is to create integrated delivery pipelines. In software development, CI and CD are key places to move faster, allowing development teams to deliver code changes more frequently and more reliably, and address business and customer needs more quickly.
4. DevOps Aligns Business Goals with Security
Without appropriate security, any progress is vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Accelerating the software development lifecycle through automation could create a temptation to minimize security checks for the sake of time. However, it’s crucial to ensure that every piece of software is secure before deploying it to the public.
DevOps principles alleviate these concerns through preventive scanning, training developers to write more secure code and incentivizing automation in security checks throughout the process. This allows for more time to perfect the product based on feedback, rather than wasting cycles on postmortems after a security event or exposure has happened.
5. DevOps Values Experimentation
Digital transformation shines when it positions a company to pull away from the pack through new and innovative uses of technology to solve business problems. Innovation of that caliber occurs through experimentation. Often, however, companies view experimentation as risky or distracting. Yet when creativity lags, the business will too. A company that can experiment with its customers, learn from that engagement and use feedback to improve will be better able to find new ways to bring value to the market.
A DevOps culture can create a powerful foundation for change. However you define digital transformation, consider DevOps as part of your roadmap to get there.